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Royal pain: The West strengthens Ukraine’s army let alone lethal weapons

Polish unmanned combat aerial vehicle

The United States, Great Britain, and Poland significantly increased the sale of weapons to Ukraine. Basically, we are talking not about lethal weapons, but about military electronics. As experts say, such assistance from the West strengthens Ukraine's fighting capability and the position of supporters of military revenge in the Donbass.

Armaments worth $50mn

In 2016, American manufacturers sold military goods to Ukraine for $17.69mn. This is twice as much as in 2015. Such data are provided in the annual reports to the Congress on the issuance of permits for commercial arms sales to foreign countries and organizations that are prepared by the Directorate for the Control of Military Trade of the US Department of State. It is not known what exactly the US supplied to Ukraine, but according to previous contracts for military electronics, Kiev planned to spend $15mn, and about $5mn on small arms and ammunition. We already wrote that the US and their European allies have long been supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine, adhering to certain restrictions. And, for example, anti-tank grenade launchers or large-caliber machine guns from Bulgaria or the Baltic states or Poland are not uncommon in the Ukrainian army.

Interestingly, in 2015, the situation with sales of arms from the United States to Ukraine was the opposite. According to the contract Ukraine was going to spend $3.1mn on small firearms including powerful sniper rifles, and only $705,000 on military electronics.

Britain also supplies mainly military electronics to Ukraine. According to the annual reports on the strategic export control of the United Kingdom, in 2015 London donated to the Ukrainian armed forces first aid kits, global positioning systems, night vision devices, specialized laptops and helmets worth GBP 800,000, and last year British companies sold military goods to Ukraine for GBP 7mn. If contracts of the light weapons, spare parts and ammunition accounted for just over GBP 1mn, the remaining funds went for military electronics. In particular, equipment for simulating military scenarios, targeting targets, and electronics for sniper rifles. According to the quarterly reports of this year, mainly military electronics continue to be supplied to Ukraine in 2017.

Poland increased arms deliveries to Ukraine almost twofold in 2016. Judging by a report of the Polish Foreign Ministry, last year sales rose to EUR 11.4mn and those accounted for light firearms, mortars, ammunition, chemical and explosive substances, and fire control equipment.

At the same time the Czech Republic supplied Kiev with drones last year for some part of the contracts worth EUR 1.37mn. And Bulgaria, which supplied Ukraine with lethal weapons – RPG launchers and ammunition for them, at the same time reduced deliveries: from EUR 16.67mn in 2015 to EUR 1.57mn in 2016.

However, the above contracts concern only the commercial purchase of weapons and do not take into account the assistance, for example, of the Pentagon to Kiev. For this year, it was approved at the level of $350mn and, in addition to training of the Ukrainian army; it also included the supply of arms. The Ukrainian side at the same time asked for military electronics, i.e. air reconnaissance means, anti-tank systems, and electronic warfare systems.

Lethal weapons? Ammunition and electronics are in short supply

In 2017, according to the index of military power of Global Firepower, the Ukrainian army was the 30th. The rating indicated that there are 182,000 people in the ranks of the Armed Forces, with another million Ukrainians in reserve. The armed forces of the Ukrainian army now have 2,400 tanks, 8,200 combat vehicles, 1,300 self-propelled artillery pieces, 1,600-barrel artillery, and 625 rocket launcher systems. In addition, 238 military aircraft and helicopters and 6 warships are in service.

Military expert Yuri Lyamin believes that many problems in the Ukrainian army remained, but as a whole, it was able to recover from the defeats and is increasing its fighting efficiency.

If you do not take corruption into account, the main problems of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are not even the absence of a powerful lethal weapon. Less sophisticated Soviet models are being produced by the Ukrainian companies of the military-industrial complex. The Ukrainian army does not have enough money, personnel, large-caliber ammunition, and military electronics. "Assistance from the West here definitely plays an important role", Yuri Lyamin says. According to him, supplies of Western military electronics are important for the Ukrainian army, since this is one of its most vulnerable points. "Speaking of backwardness of the communication means of the Ukrainian army, a lot was said in Ukraine itself," the expert said. Recall that in 2014 in the Donbass, the Ukrainian army made more extensive use of ordinary mobile phones rather than more advanced special means of communication.

"In fact, it's a myth that Ukraine needs lethal weapons for victory in the East," political analyst Oleg Voloshin told the Ukrainian Strana.ua news site. "We are the weakest as concerns non-lethal weapons; we have very weak communications and intelligence systems." We have artillery and tanks, but we need unmanned aerial vehicles, secure communication systems, we need to tighten cybersecurity - as shown by the Petya.A virus, this is also a modern war that does great damage with minimal enemy losses. Just look, what airborne landing operation Russia launched in the framework of "West-2017" - and where is our aviation in general? So if someone now argues that the US supposedly promised Javelins but gave us some radars instead, I would be surprised to hear that. "

Kiev does not conceal that with the strengthening of the army, it will be primarily oriented towards confrontation with Russia. "The main advantage of regular Russian troops is that they have a combination of automated reconnaissance and control systems with reconnaissance assets and directly with defeat systems," Sergey Zgurets, director of the Ukrainian information and consulting company Defense Express, told the Kiev Today newspaper. The expert says that Ukraine was able to raise its potential among other things due to unmanned complexes of the Polish Fly Eye, which are used by artillery reconnaissance in regular artillery brigades. In addition, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are already using US AN / TPQ-49 and AN / TPQ-36 counter-battery radar systems. "Thanks to American radars, we determine the enemy's place, we carry out a strike and change our location," the Ukrainian expert said, but admitted that full automation of the Ukrainian artillery is still far ahead: "After determining the enemy's position, we still do manual calculation, we calculate how to implement the impact, but this should also be automated".

According to Sergey Zgurets, contracts were signed for the supply of Turkish VHF radios with increased noise immunity for tank units.

The commander of the Missile Forces and Artillery of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Vyacheslav Gorbylev told the newspaper "Den" that Ukraine is beginning to purchase control systems for artillery fire. Another Ukrainian army became interested in Polish technology. "We want to see something like what our Polish friends have. Again, I remember Krab – the TOPAZ artillery fire control system works in it, it is also of Polish production. Each command post is equipped with a computer terminal with installed software that allows one to manage the artillery unit in real time without having to give verbal commands over the radio. There are variations of the TOPAZ system for cannons and howitzers of different calibers. The system interacts with similar networks at different levels of command. Even if the commander's computer fails, the field artillery teams will be fighting offline. Now we are adapting the TOPAZ systems to our conditions", the general said.

The Ukrainian military columnist and volunteer Serge Marko told the BBC at the same time that sniper complexes, battle control systems and surveillance cameras for command and observation posts have appeared in the army.

"In 2014, the servicemen literally had weapons to fight with, not to mention some high-tech gadgets. Now the situation has changed", - Serge Marco gives an example of snipers, a small number of who skillfully work with high-precision rifles, hitting targets at a distance of more than a kilometer: "Now in each battalion there are caliber 338 rifles, somewhere there are also caliber 50 ones. And soldiers already know how to use them. I also know that there are long-range thermal imaging systems that allow you to observe at a distance of several kilometers and determine the movement of enemy forces - both infantry and equipment".

"Deliveries of Western means of communication, night vision devices, radar batteries, and other military equipment certainly increase the fighting efficiency of the Ukrainian army and thereby strengthen the positions of supporters of military revenge for the defeats they suffered in 2014 and early 2015," Yuri Lyamin thinks.

Turning into a constant royal pain for Russia

Chief of the General Staff of Ukraine Viktor Muzhenko estimated the losses of the Ukrainian army in case of an attempt to solve the issue in the Donbass by force may be 10-12 thousand people in the first 10 days. Three thousand of them will be killed. In addition, at least 10 thousand civilians will perish, the Ukrainian general said. Ex-Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksandr Kuzmuk told the ZIK TV channel that the Ukrainian army could reach the borders with Russia, but for this it will have to demolish Donetsk, Lugansk, Gorlovka and other Donbass cities. "I can even develop and justify a de-occupation plan for the Donbass region even in the TV studio, but it is impossible to fulfill due exactly to these reasons," said former head of the Defense Ministry under Leonid Kuchma. Earlier, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said that in the east of Ukraine, 10 thousand people have already been already killed. 2,7 thousand of them are military losses.

Nevertheless, there are still many hot heads, even among the leaders of Ukraine, who are hungry for revenge, and much will depend on the position of the US and NATO.

In the meantime, they say in Washington that they would not provide Ukraine with lethal weapons. At the same time, the House of Representatives of the US Congress passed a bill on financing the country's defense ministry in 2018, TASS news agency reports. It provides military assistance to Ukraine for $350mn - the supply of defensive weapons, equipment, as well as training of the Ukrainian army and its technical support. The Ukrainian Embassy in the United States on its Facebook page clarified that for the first time it deals with deliveries of anti-aircraft defense complexes and systems for tracking the surface of the earth and water, means for combating naval mines and patrol ships.

Head of the Center for Military Forecasting Anatoly Tsyganok believes that Washington and the North Atlantic alliance do not need a war with Russia, but a "thorn". "We should always face this thorn; it should be Russia’s target. It does not seem to be bad at all: it is small, but it is still a thorn and it causes rather unpleasant problems," the military expert told FAN. According to him, NATO countries are assisting the Ukrainian army, first of all, in order not to repeat the situation with the war in South Ossetia: "Then, in 2008, the Americans had trained the Georgian army for four years to launch a blitzkrieg. However, we all remember what happened: Georgia tried to defeat South Ossetia and as a result its territory was reduced by South Ossetia and Abkhazia".

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